WASHINGTON: While Fortune's Most Admired list may be a good reflection of corporations' reputations inside the business world, it does not necessarily mirror the way those companies are portrayed to the public by the media.A Carma International study conducted for PRWeek analyzed the coverage of the Most Admired Companies in influential publications such as BusinessWeek, Time, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.
Although GE topped the Fortune list for the fifth straight year, it received only the 13th best media coverage according to Carma's Impact Quality (IQ) rating, which takes into account a combination of size of audience and favorability from the company's point of view. GE generated a significant volume of unfavorable coverage - due mainly to its failed bid to acquire Honeywell - with 30% of all coverage positioning GE negatively.
Matthew Boyle, the Fortune reporter who wrote this year's Most Admired report, was not surprised that media coverage did not necessarily relate to the Most Admired list. He pointed out that, apart from the fact they were polling different audiences, "the Fortune list is about performance over the last couple of years, not just one."
One hypothesis, proposed by Carma CEO and founder Albert Barr, is that positive media coverage will, if maintained for a number of years, influence the way a corporation is viewed by businesspeople and analysts, and therefore feed through to Fortune's Most Admired list.
Barr took the example of eBay, which does not figure in this year's Most Admired list, but received much positive media coverage. "If they keep receiving great coverage for their soaring earnings and CEO Meg Whitman, I wouldn't be surprised to see them hit the Fortune list in five to 10 years."
Interestingly, the companies already in the Most Admired list may suffer the opposite fate, said Nicholas Kalm, SVP with Edelman. He suggested that gaining prominence in such a list could make corporations the target for more negative coverage. "Business reporters are feeling burned by Enron,
he said. "As a result, they're more suspicious of anyone touting themselves."